22 Sep 16 10 Nov 17

We're independent

It is easy to write inspiring words to define an organization’s mission – it is much harder to put those principles into practice. At the core of Doctors Without Borders' identity is a commitment to independence, neutrality and impartiality.

These ideals have driven every aspect of our work – from medical care and logistics to finance and communications – since Doctors Without Borders was established in 1971.

Our commitment to these principles, and the impact of the organization built on them, was recognized in 1999 when we were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Impartial

We provide free medical care to people who need it. It doesn’t matter which country they are from, which religion they belong to, or what their political affiliations are. All that matters is they are human beings in need.

Neutral

In a conflict situation, we don’t take sides, but go where people’s medical needs are greatest. In the ward of one of our field hospitals, you might find wounded civilians alongside injured soldiers from opposing sides. Hostilities and weapons must be left at the gate.

Independent

We rarely take funds from governments, businesses or institutions for our work. We rely mainly on the generosity of individual members of the public. Over 90 percent of our income comes from private donors giving small amounts.

"For MSF, this is the humanitarian act: to seek to relieve suffering, to seek to restore autonomy, to witness to the truth of injustice, and to insist on political responsibility..."

Dr. James orbinski,Former president of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

This means that when there is an emergency, we don’t need to wait for official funds to be released or for the media to generate interest; we can act fast to save people’s lives based on need alone.

Our financial independence also means the aid we provide cannot be used to further any government’s political or military goals.

Acceptance

Wherever we work, we make sure that the communities for whom we provide care are aware that Doctors Without Borders is politically neutral and will provide assistance to anyone who needs it. We run radio campaigns and hold meetings with everyone from government ministers to local warlords, community elders to women’s groups.

Gaining their acceptance is key to our being able to work in difficult environments such as Afghanistan or Democratic Republic of Congo.

Improvement

Doctors Without Borders is an outspoken organization – we expect and demand high standards from ourselves and other organizations. We speak out if we think other humanitarian organizations are being dishonest, compromised or slow to react. But we also examine and critique our own performance.

In 2015 we published "Where is Everyone?", a hard-hitting report which diagnoses some of the key issues inherent in the international response to humanitarian crises.

In 2012 we published "Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed". This book examines the reality of the compromises Doctors Without Borders made – some successfully and some less so – to try and help the people suffering most in the world today. 

Case studies from recent conflicts such as Yemen, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan lay bare the reality of our efforts to reach the most affected people, and explore just what the limits of compromise should be.

There are also essays exploring broader issues, such as the real usefulness of aid responses to natural disasters.

Nobel Peace Prize

In 1999 Doctors Without Borders was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its pioneering humanitarian work around the world.